Connect with us

Technology

Is smart tech the new domestic battle ground? | Life and style

Voice Of EU

Published

on

I came into the kitchen recently to find my husband cradling our electricity smart meter with the kind of tender attention more usually directed to a new-born, his phone clutched in his free hand. “You didn’t turn your office heater off last night,” he said. I didn’t like his tone.

“I did! I went in this morning to turn it on again!”

“You can’t have. Look.” He waved his phone. “Last night we used 10…” (here he added a unit, presumably of electricity, but all that stuff is Martian to me. Ten zaps? Ten whizzes?). “It shouldn’t be that high.”

“But I turned it off!”

But our smart home had spoken and it is far more reliable than me, his life partner of 26 years. Our house now has app-enabled devices to control the heating and the boiler remotely, to check temperature, CO2 and noise levels and to see who is at the door. There are motion-detector cameras in the garden that send us videos of foxes threatening my hens, or his tortoises escaping. Since we installed a few solar panels, my husband’s smart-home management has become more urgent and more granular. An app tells him how much we are consuming, but also how much we are producing, in real time. Now he bursts in when it’s sunny, shouting “We’re giving electricity to the grid! Use more!” In the evenings, I watch Succession; he studies our energy statistics. Technology has transformed him into a one-man home hub. “I used to think home smart technology was pointless,” he tells me. “But it really makes sense.”

I hate it. I don’t want my home to see me when I’m sleeping and know when I’m awake. It makes me feel bamboozled and disenfranchised: how do I make it warmer when I can’t just press a button on the wall? Why do I need an app to answer the door? I also get defensive: the climate emergency means my husband is absolutely right to try to limit our energy consumption, but we end up arguing about how long the heated clothes airer can run (“It’s 6p an hour!” I protest. “That’s not nothing if you leave it on all night,” he counters.) “Aren’t you worried,” I ask him, “You’ll end up like Facebook? The robots will malfunction and you’ll need an angle grinder to boil the kettle?” But he’s an engineer: no angle-grinder scenario could faze him.

‘Alexa is a soldier of the patriarchy. She refuses to listen to women.’
‘Alexa is a soldier of the patriarchy. She refuses to listen to women.’ Illustration: Phil Hackett/The Observer

I am the one who is out of step: our homes are smarter than ever. Tools with cosy, nature-inspired names (Nest, Hive) allow us to monitor and control homes even when we aren’t in them; other one-word devices (Blink, Ring) keep them safe. A 2019 survey found 57% of British homes have at least one kind of smart device; back in 2018 YouGov found 8% of homes have two or more. It’s too early for definitive research, but it seems Covid #stayathome living, perhaps combined with feeling life was out of control in other ways, increased our desire to micro- manage our environments. A government report found almost half of UK residents purchased at least one smart device during the pandemic and more than half said their smart device usage had increased. But what does this mean for the home-environment variable you can’t control with an app: human relationships?

“It’s almost inevitable that you wouldn’t both be equally keen on it,” says technology writer Charles Arthur. “You almost have a new way of living in your house, which you thought you knew, but now it’s: ‘Don’t touch that!’” For Hilda Burke, psychotherapist, couples counsellor and author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, smart tech has facilitated a perennial source of relationship conflict: temperature and energy usage. “It’s something that has been around for ages, but (now) it’s more data-driven and quantifiable. Before, you might not have evidence, but now there is.” Burke wonders if the urge to control and manage our homes is some kind of evolutionary throwback expressed through technology. “It is probably down to something quite basic and primal, like keeping a balance between being safe and warm and not depleting resources.”

Plenty of others feel there are three people in their relationship and one of them plugs in. I asked around and gathered their tales of domestic techno-woe. Joel and Anna live in Sydney with two young children and a house full of smart tech: a voice-controlled home pod that uses Siri, Google Home for shopping lists and a raft of programmed, motion-activated lights. Joel is the enthusiast: “I have always been into computers and gadgets,” he says. “I tolerate it because a man must have his hobbies,” says Anna. Some elements, however, she finds challenging. “I have been driven to minor furies with settings not working the way I think they have been set up. Joel’s not here and I’m bustling around trying to turn things on and off and it simply won’t respond to me.” She’s also wary of the home pod: “It does a little ‘boop’ noise, like ‘I’m listening to you,’ which is creepy.”

Anna likes the smart lights, which dim in the evening, go red for nocturnal loo trips and switch on automatically when they return home. But even these cause problems, leaving babysitters plunged in darkness, or turning on unexpectedly: Joel set the lights to notify him when an Uber arrived, then went out to find it, leaving Anna and her mother in an inexplicably flashing house. “It was terrifying,” says Anna; “I can see that was a mistake,” concedes Joel.

dog runnig off with an alexa speaker
‘Some households have seamlessly integrated virtual assistants, viewing them as a drawback-free life enhancement.’ Photograph: Phil Hackett/The Observer

Things get weirder when we invite Alexa, Siri and friends into our relationships. One recurrent complaint about virtual home assistants is their tendency to only obey one half of a couple. “Our Alexa refuses to respond to me,” says Robert. “She’s linked to our lights, only answers to my husband, who has to rescue me when it gets dark. This morning she inexplicably put every light on. Point blank refused to turn them off when I asked.” When Robert’s husband gets involved, Alexa is “entirely compliant”. My friend Rhian feels similarly snubbed. “Alexa is a soldier of the patriarchy,” she says. “Fully ignores me, while responding immediately to Paul. She refuses to listen to women.”

Joel and Anna have experienced this too, though Joel believes his tech is not inherently misogynistic. “Because I set it up, I know exactly the phrase that needs to be used and Anna doesn’t,” he explains. “She’ll say it slightly wrong, then I say it and to her ear it sounds like I’m saying exactly the same thing in a calmer voice.” “It’s very annoying,” says Anna. They have both also struggled with shopping items that the Google Home mangled (‘Mississippi’ for miso soup; ‘shut up little Caesars’ for sharp little scissors’). Some have it even worse: “My Alexa interpreted ‘maple syrup’ as ‘nipple rings’, says Leona. “It was an unpleasant episode.” Rebecca’s Alexa told her son “Every Christmas present that was being delivered to him.”

It’s not all relationship doom. There are happy robot-human thruples out there. Some households have seamlessly integrated virtual assistants, viewing them as a drawback-free life enhancement. They include my friend Lydia’s. “Siri is a valued member of our family,” she says. “She tells us stories and jokes and how to spell things.” Sara’s family uses Siri to resolve arguments – “So much so that I feel we need Siri on retainer as our therapist,” she says.

Smart tech can also be a godsend for people living with a disability or health condition. Lisa-Marie has limited mobility and fine motor skills following a spinal injury; she loves the Google Home installed by her partner: “I find it genuinely useful, particularly on bad health days. My best bit is being able to switch the lights on and off from the sofa or bed.” Grudgingly, I see the benefits, but resent living in a house full of gadgetry I don’t understand, digitally highlighting my failings (yes, maybe I did leave that heater on). Hilda Burke urges those of us feeling left behind or irritated by a partner’s smart home tech to analyse whether it’s their behaviour, or our reactions, that are the problem. “We can get quite meddlesome, when it’s their time and their choice,” she cautions. For those, like me, occasionally feeling judged and found wanting by a coalition of robot-harvested data plus partner, Burke says: “There are parent, adult, or child ways we can respond. It’s not easy to be an adult: that parental voice – when someone says, ‘Did you put the radiator on?’ – brings us back to childhood.” The key to avoiding conflict is to respond calmly, as an adult: “Yes, I was feeling cold,” rather than expletive-laden bluster.

Perhaps we hold-outs will grow to love the cosy glow of a warm, bright home greeting us as we come in from the cold; a playlist starting up as the smart lock lets us in. But that might not be the end of our problems: what if we’re not smart enough for our smart homes? My husband is happy with all the circuitry he learned in his engineering studies, because some smart tech is genuinely tricky to install and maintain.

“I hope I die first,” is a common sentiment among tech-averse householders. “I live in fear of my husband dying before me, because I have no idea how any of it works and will be facing a dirty, cold, housebound life,” says Candida. Tom, who is responsible for the smart tech invasion in his home, worries that if he died, his family would be unable to function and would “grieve in cold darkness, soundtracked by the noise of the burglar alarm.”

Spurred by this, and my husband’s imminent two-week trip to the States, I delicately raise the question of what happens if he falls out of the sky. “You need to find and remove the circuit breakers,” he says, instantly losing me. “But it won’t be easy.” I’m urging him to update his will accordingly. The robot takeover may be imminent (I hope you’ve said please and thank you to Alexa and Siri), but who inherits them before it happens?

Source link

Technology

The trends you need to know about

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Accenture’s Barry Heavey discusses how the life sciences industry has changed and the most in-demand roles and skills right now.

At the end of last year, data from pharma recruiter Cpl Life Sciences and data analytics company Vacancysoft revealed that there was record recruitment in Ireland’s life sciences sector in 2021.

This year has already seen expansion across a number of pharma, biotech and medtech companies in Ireland, including Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Janssen and Merck.

So for those looking to work in the sector, what are the most in-demand roles right now and what skills do they need to be successful in the industry?

Barry Heavey is the managing director of life sciences at Accenture in Ireland. He told SiliconRepublic.com that he is seeing a lot of demand for skills in digital technology right now.

“What we look for is people who can combine skills in digital technologies with an understanding of the actual problems and complexities that companies face in developing and supplying ever more complex products to ever-more focused patient populations,” he said.

“Across the wider industry in Ireland, I see a very large demand for people who are interested in working in manufacturing, quality, supply chain management, regulatory affairs, data analytics and process development.”

While some graduates with a science degree might not see a role in manufacturing or quality as an exciting long-term option compared to R&D, Heavey said it’s important not to discount these career paths.

“Most biopharma companies need their manufacturing and quality teams to orient themselves more towards development and research, so these roles will hold exciting development opportunities while giving new graduates a great first step on the career ladder where they can learn all about the challenges of producing highly complex products to save lives.”

While there are a wide range of technical skills that will be needed in life sciences such as mRNA synthesis and formulation, conjugation chemistry, multivariate analysis, and artificial intelligence, Heavey said “multi-disciplinarity is key”.

“We need manufacturing and quality people who can collaborate with R&D and regulatory affairs people and vice versa. We need people who combine scientific, engineering, IT and business skills as well as the wider skills of communication, storytelling, project management, etc.”

Heavey also said that the industry is moving so fast now that the old siloed ways of working are no longer viable. Even though deep expertise in specific areas is required, collaboration is vital.

“Digital tools can be a key enabler of better collaboration, and innovation like advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence can also help in surfacing insights and enabling better decision-making using technology and curating and sharing knowledge over time and between teams.”

Biggest trends in the industry

For those working in the sector, one of the biggest trends is around new ‘modalities’ – new modes of treatment such as conjugated proteins, mRNA and cell therapy.

“We had the explosion of the new modality of recombinant proteins over the past 20 years, but this modality is represented by some of the best-selling drugs in the world like Keytruda, Humira, etc. and Ireland is central to the supply of these products due to proactive targeting of investment by the IDA and training capabilities from organisations such as NIBRT,” said Heavey.

He added that while Ireland was able to capitalise on the growth of the recombinant protein modality the country needs to ensure “we catch the next waves of the next generation of modalities”.

“We are seeing progress in this with Pfizer making their mRNA vaccine for Covid in their Dublin facility, but we need to continue to watch for new opportunities and invest in training our workforce to be ready for these.”

Another big trend is the increased pace of innovation. The timeframe of 10-15 years to approve a newly discovered drug has been drastically compressed in recent years. Most recently, the world saw several Covid-19 vaccines approved in under one year.

Heavey said this increased pace is partly due to the new modalities but also due to the better collection and use of data.

“With the pace of innovation in digital and medical technology, we now have the data collection and analysis tools needed to understand disease in more depth, to develop and even design new drugs faster, to decide what patients might be most likely to benefit from a treatment and to determine whether the drug is effective and safe in patients with much higher fidelity,” he said.

For those entering the industry, Heavey advised them to “think about the white space between disciplines”.

“If you are strong in digital technologies, think about upskilling in areas like biotechnology or medical device technology, so you can speak the language of people who need your IT skills.  If you are strong in R&D, think about how you can collaborate more effectively with people in manufacturing who will be trying to put new modalities on the shelves.

“If you are strong in quality control, think about what is coming next from R&D (new modalities or new analytical methods) and how you can prepare for these and expedite their introduction through enhanced collaboration,” he said.

“Bottom line is never stop learning! It is such an exciting industry to be in and I, for one, feel privileged to be involved in it.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Best podcasts of the week: The hunt for an art dealer’s riches hidden in the mountains | Podcasts

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Picks of the week

Listening
Widely available, episodes weekly
This podcast is equivalent to stepping into the studio with a musician. A specially recorded track by artists such as Björk, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Neko Case is followed by an interview in which they explain how they made it. From Björk elucidating how she used the noise of frozen lakes to create soaring, glockenspiel-strafed choral pop, to Crutchfield enthusing about her love of white noise, it is hugely illuminating. Alexi Duggins

The Dangerous Art of the Documentary
Widely available, episodes weekly

What is it like to get involved in a twisty murder case and personally meet the participants? This new series hears director Tiller Russell interview the creators of shows such as Wild Wild Country and Don’t F**k With Cats. It might be heavy on industry detail, but it’s a comprehensive look at the film-making process. AD

Vibe Check
Widely available, episodes weekly
Fabulous trio Sam Sanders, Saeed Jones and Zach Stafford offer a weekly kiki “from a decidedly Black and queer perspective” in their new podcast. Just like in their group chat, the idea is to check in on each other. Plus the latest news and culture, with spot-on chemistry and disses delivered with love. Hannah Verdier

Missed Fortune
Apple Podcasts, episodes weekly
“I’m in a car with some guys I don’t know on our way to somewhere we’re not supposed to be … ” The stakes are high in this nine-part series, in which host Peter Frick-Wright joins the perilous treasure hunt for $1m that retired art dealer Forrest Fenn hid in the Rocky Mountains. Hollie Richardson

Night Fever
WOW Podcast Network and Spotify, episodes weekly

The most gossipy music podcast returns, with James St James, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato spilling all the tea from 1970s clubland to today. Nightlife favourites including Moby and Michelle Visage bring hilarious stories to help the hosts celebrate the glorious era before social media when New York clubbers could bump into RuPaul, Andy Warhol and Madonna. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Black Fashion History charts the course of Black designers, labels and models such as Naomi Campbell.
Black Fashion History charts the course of Black designers, labels and models such as Naomi Campbell. Photograph: Ken Towner/Associated Newspa/REX

This week, Fleur Britten chooses five of the best podcasts for fashion fans, from an intimate interview show with fashion journalism’s grand dame to a (cat)walk through the history of Black style

Creative Conversations with Suzy Menkes
For years, the veteran fashion critic Suzy Menkes and her unfeasibly large quiff were always first out of the blocks at the end of a fashion show, in order to secure those backstage interviews. As the former fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, and then editor of Vogue International, Menkes is widely regarded as the grande dame of fashion journalism, with enviable access to the industry’s biggest names. Her independent podcast, launched during the first lockdown of 2020, capitalises on those connections, taking listeners behind the scenes on in-depth conversations with the likes of Demna Gvasalia, Dries van Noten and Manolo Blahnik.

The Business of Fashion Podcast
If you like being in the know on fashion industry developments, the Business of Fashion’s weekly podcast is required listening. The globally respected fashion news website launched its audio arm in 2017, and has since brought its journalistic rigour to the podcast via topical features and insightful interviews with, for example, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, Anna Wintour’s biographer Amy Odell, and Skims CEO Jens Grede. The features – on topics including the rise of vacation clothing, and Shein’s $100bn valuation – are always ahead of the curve.

Dressed: The History of Fashion
Many of us view clothes simply as packages of colour, shape and texture. Fashion historians, however, see layers and layers of meaning and nuance within those elements. They see the implicit cultural significance of clothing choices, and understand what our clothes are really communicating. British fashion historians Rebecca Arnold from the Courtauld Institute and Beatrice Behlen of the Museum of London have been enlightening listeners on all matters fashion history since 2018 with their highbrow yet approachable weekly podcast, Bande A Part – all with a remarkably modern outlook.

Wardrobe Crisis
While many of us would like to shop more sustainably, learning the finer details of how to do that tends to get shunted down our list of priorities when there are so many more fun distractions on offer. The Sydney-based British fashion journalist and author Clare Press, who was Vogue’s first sustainability editor, makes the task an enjoyable one, with her engaging, hard-working podcast Wardrobe Crisis, launched in 2017. Press’s tone is always upbeat and solutions-focused, and guest hosts help to keep the subject matter fresh and appealing.

Black Fashion History
When the American content creator Taniqua Russ asked people to name their favourite Black designers and brands, most drew a blank. So in 2019, she started doing her own research, sharing her findings in a podcast as a resource for people to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Chronicling the contribution of Black people around the world to the fashion industry, this no-frills podcast has introduced its audience to the work of model Carol Collins-Miles, the milliner Lisa McFadden and the designer Therez Fleetwood, among others.

Why not try …

  • A glut of intimate, sideways stories in hit podcast Love + Radio, whose whole archive is now available to binge.

  • A guided yoga practice (yes, really) with a little singer called Dua Lipa in the new series of At Your Service.

  • The true story of Putin’s “number one enemy”, shot and killed in 2015, in Another Russia.

If you want to read the complete version of the newsletter please subscribe to receive Hear Here in your inbox every Thursday

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Most IPv6 DNS queries sent to Chinese resolvers fail • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

China’s DNS resolvers fail two thirds of the time when handling queries for IPv6 addresses, and botch one in eight queries for IPv4, according to a group of Chinese academics.

As explained in a paper titled “A deep dive into DNS behavior and query failures” and summarized in a blog post at APNIC (the Asia Pacific’s regional internet address registry), the authors worked with log files describing 2.8 billion anonymized DNS queries processed at Chinese ISPs.

Among the paper’s findings:

  • 86.2 percent of queries were for A records – the record for a resource with an IPv4 address;
  • 10.4 percent were for AAAA records that point to resources with an IPv6 address;
  • 93.1 percent of queries for A records succeeded;
  • 35.8 percent of requests for AAAA records succeeded.

The researchers – led by professor Zhenyu Li and Donghui Yang, both from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences – suggest the reason for the low success rate of AAAA record queries is poor performance by some Chinese players.

One outfit, 114DNS, succeeded with just 14.5 percent of AAAA queries. Alibaba Group’s AliDNS succeeded 54.3 percent of the time – more than Google or Cisco’s OpenDNS, which were found to resolve 43.4 percent and 49.2 percent of AAAA queries respectively.

A fifth of DNS resolvers never succeed at handling IPv6 AAAA queries.

“Overall, A and MX queries are successfully resolved most frequently, while AAAA and PTR manifest lower success rates,” the summary reads. “Specifically, the failure rate of AAAA queries is surprisingly over 64.2 percent — two out of three AAAA queries failed.”

“We also found the success rates for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) were lower than that of well-established domains, primarily because of the prevalence of malicious domains,” wrote professor Li.

However the researchers did not identity why DNS resolution rates are so low, especially for AAAA queries. Nor do they mention what the poor IPv6 resolution rates mean for China’s plans for mass adoption of IPv6 by 2030.

The blog post recommends users adopt “a larger negative caching time-to-live for AAAA records associated with domains that only map to IPv4 addresses reliably.” Checking DNS resolvers’ success rates is also suggested ahead of making a choice of DNS provider. ®

OpenDNS mess

In other DNS-related news, Cisco’s OpenDNS service today wobbled for a few hours in North America.

WeWork offices, wherein some of our vultures toil, experienced network problems, as did at least one university. We’ve also heard reports that the incident impacted email security guardian Spamhaus.

The issue was resolved without Cisco offering any explanation for the incident.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!